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Vol.18, no.1
February/March 2015


Cut and Paste 
Story By: Derek Ferrar
Photo By: Ryan T. Foley

Growing up in parched Phoenix, Arizona, Samantha Hardin first fell in love with the ocean during family trips to Mexico. “I think not having the beach around all the time made me love it even more,” says the sunny proprietor of 3rd Ave Shore in Kailua. In 2006 Hardin followed her ocean bliss to Hawai‘i with a vision of starting a handmade-arts business that expressed her beachy worldview. She came across the idea of removable wall decals and found a used machine on Craigslist. The seller offered to show her how to use it, which Hardin says was “life-changing for me, a literal God-wink.” But when she told him her plans: “He thought I was crazy. He said, ‘Just make stickers and sign up at the swap meet.’”

But Hardin kept at it, teaching herself the business in her garage. The initial market for her “wall tatts” turned out to be mainly moms decorating kids’ rooms but now includes “everyone from dudes with bachelor pads to college kids who want a little of what we call ‘dorm flair.’” A couple of years ago she ran out of room in her house and opened the brick-and-mortar 3rd Ave Shore. The shop’s walls are adorned with some of her most popular designs, ranging from a few dollars for a small, pineapple-shaped sticker to $165 for a playful, head-high wave stacking up to break in your living room.

On a laptop at the shop’s worktable “bar,” you select the decal, color and size you want from a catalog of hundreds, or Hardin can do a custom order. Then—producing a jangle of cartoony noises worthy of a Vegas slot floor—a machine scores the design into a sheet of matte vinyl. Finally, Hardin or one of her helpers carefully peels away the portions that aren’t part of the design, and voilà! All you have to do is press the decal to your wall. Hardin likes to encourage clients to hang out at the store and “watch people working with their hands.” As far as she knows, she says, her store is “the only shop in world where you can see the whole process and sit down and talk to the owner.”